Rare-book Exhibition at Bryn Mawr College Showcases Latin Doodles and Marginalia in Ancient Texts

Latin Doodles
Images via Bryn Mawr College Special Collections and Kate Barnes image via Jennifer S. Altman, all featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

A small exhibition currently on view in the rare-book room of Canaday Library at Bryn Mawr College showcases Latin doodles and marginalia (marks made in the margins of a book or other document. They may be scribbles, comments, glosses, critiques, doodles, or illuminations, say Wikipedia) in ancient books, writes Stephan Salisbury for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Private Lives of Old Books is put together by classics scholar and Bryn Mawr doctoral candidate Kate Barnes with help from her adviser Catherine Conybeare, professor of classical studies.

It showcases volumes from the 14th to 16th century which are part of the college’s collection and contain doodles and comments grappling with the horrors of Latin syntax.

When examining the books and manuscripts in preparations for the exhibit, Barnes found notes jotted in various languages in the margins, underlined passages, doodled monks’ heads, sketched-in arrows and drawn fingers pointing at specific lines, mildly randy jokes, and so much more.

“As much as I am in classics because I love texts, it’s really fun to see and engage with history through these material objects, and I got really, really into it,” she said.

The exhibition will run through December 17 and is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as by appointment.

Read more about the exhibition in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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